Wednesday, February 29, 2012


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Dear and Glorious Physician, Taylor Caldwell, Doubleday and Company, 1959, 562 pp

Can you be mad at someone who is dead? Well, I suppose so. I am mad at Taylor Caldwell because it took me so long to read this book. It was the #7 bestseller of 1959. I have read a fair share of what I call "Jesus books" in My Big Fat Reading Project so far. The tone in these books is usually a similar one of wonder and faith but after a while you see that it is all conjecture because no one writing these books was there. The Gospels in the Bible are I guess the closest thing to a true account.

Anyway, Jesus is just alright with me. I was raised to believe that he loved me; helpful to a child when she feels no one else does. Some of the teachings of Jesus still inform the way I treat others when I am acting in a manner that makes me respect myself: loving my friends, family, and enemies; practicing forgiveness; standing up in opposition to war; etc. But I am pretty much over the historical novels about him.

Dear and Glorious Physician is the story of how Lucanus, son of freed Greek slaves, became Saint Luke. Caldwell worked on the book for decades. Her descriptions of ancient Greece, Rome, Alexandria, and the Holy Land are nicely done, but much too frequent. While reading this novel, I learned to skim.

I also admired the passages showing Luke's healing powers. Though he is pictured as a man with an almost mystical ability to heal the sick, he could not heal his own broken heart and bitterness toward God after the death of the first woman he loved. It took the message of Jesus to do that.

Another interesting historical aspect was the way Caldwell traced the many predictions concerning Jesus the Messiah, showing that philosophers and mystics of all stripes were aware of these prophecies.

Overall it was a mixed reading experience. Some parts gripped me and sped by. Others were tedious and felt endless.

I came across a great interview with Taylor Caldwell when she was in her seventies and still writing bestsellers. (I have five more to go in the next decade of the reading plan.) She was wonderfully crotchety and inconsistent--I heard the voice I sometimes hear in her books. She took her work seriously and admitted that it was grueling hard work. She made a lot of money from it and was never financially dependent on a man though she was married many times. What a woman!

(Dear and Glorious Physician is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore. To find it at your nearest indie bookstore, click on the cover image above.)

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